Fusilli Tuna Pomodoro with Homemade Tomato, Gravy

I love Sunday nights at home.  Don't you?  It's the perfect chance to round out what no doubt has been a full weekend of running around and late nights.  And because my weekends tend to include what you could call off-routine eating, by this point I'm usually in the mood for a home-cooked meal that gets me ready for a healthy and productive week ahead.

I may also subconsciously love Sunday nights at home because growing up my mother would make a large, bubbly pot of homemade tomato sauce.  This would start simmering away in the wee hours of Sunday morning (or at least that's what 11 AM felt like back then), and the aroma of sauteed onion and garlic would hang in the air until it was time for our mid-afternoon Sunday meal.  It was heaven.

Only, in her house it isn't called tomato sauce.  I repeat, never called tomato sauce. 

It's called gravy.  Sunday gravy to be exact.  And while the origins of why are not exactly clear to me, I'm pretty sure its roots lie within the Italian-American culture of northern NJ.  I willingly accept any and all insight into why this is, by the way.  It might help bump up my status when I go home, now that I live in Pennsylvania and I already get plenty of flack for being a Phillies fan.

And speaking of Pennsylvania rubbing off on me, my ability to make authentic Italian words sound NJ-appropriate is fading considerably.

Example:  Last weekend my mom and I were making Caprese Bruschetta together (yum, by the way, great for parties). 

Me: Mom, do you want to slice the mozzarella (motz-er-ella)?
Mom: Sure, as soon as you stop calling it that.

I admit, she was right.  My pronunciation didn't have enough "mutz" for anyone's liking. 

Back to gravy.  While I can't share my mom's recipe (Over the internet?  Are you nuts?), this recipe for gravy and a tasty way to use it is DELICIOUS.  It's perfect for Sunday dinner at home when you might have more time to cook than you normally do during the week. 

I can't say that this comes close to her gravy, because hers is just awesome, sorry.  I can say, however, that it comes VERY close to the gravy that Lada Gaga makes, according to a radio interview I happened to catch this week.  Seriously. 

Do with that what you will.

Fusilli with Olives, Capers, Tuna Pomodoro
adapted from a recipe by Shea Gallante
Yields 4 servings


For the pasta:
1 lb dried fusilli pasta (or any short pasta)
6 cloves garlic
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c kalamata olives, sliced
1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tbs red pepper flakes
2 c tomato sauce (bottled or homemade, see below)
2 tbs capers, chopped
1 can or pouch of high quality tuna, preferably Italian, packed in oil
1/2 c grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano cheese

For the tomato sauce:
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
1 fennel head, split in half
2 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
2 basil sprigs


To make the tomato sauce:
Set a medium saucepan over medium heat, and coat with oil.  Saute the onion for about 15 minutes.  Then, stir in the garlic, and cook for about 1 minute, to brown.  Meanwhile, place the plum tomatoes in a food processor and pulse a few times, until they are a rough chop consistency.  Add the tomatoes, fennel, basil sprigs, and salt and pepper to the sauteed onions/garlic, and simmer on a very low heat for about an hour.  Remove the basil and fennel and set aside.

To make the pasta:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta until al dente (approximately 10-14 minutes depending on the brand). 

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, add the garlic, and saute for 1 minute.  Add the olives, parsley, and red pepper, and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the tomato sauce, capers, and tuna, and cook for 2 minutes, or until heated through. 

Drain the pasta, and add it to the sauce.  Add the grated cheese, salt and pepper, and toss to combine.

Serve hot, and mangia!  (pronounce it "manj", so my mother doesnt yell at you).

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